Amandla Stenberg, Bobbi Salvor Menuez, Charles F. Halpenny, Cory Lipman, film festivals, Harrison W. Halpenny, Heidi von Palleske, Jacqueline Castel, LGBTQ, movies, My Animal, reviews, Stephen McHattie
September 24, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by Jacqueline Castel
Culture Representation: Taking place in Ontario, Canada, the horror film “My Animal” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one biracial person) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A woman in her late teens, who is secretly a werewolf, has a sexual awakening as a lesbian and gets into a love triangle with the woman she wants to be her lover.
Culture Audience: “My Animal” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in LGBTQ-themed horror movies, but don’t expect there to be much of an interesting story.
“My Animal” tries and fails to be an edgy werewolf movie. The plot is clumsy, boring, and unimaginative. The acting performances are very uneven. Almost nothing about this horror movie is actually scary or intriguing. The movie’s plot seems more like an outline than a truly cinematic story. “
Directed by Jacqueline Castel (her feature-film debut) and written by Jae Matthews, “My Animal” had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The movie was filmed on location in the Canadian province of Ontario. At times, “My Animal” doesn’t even seem like a horror movie because so much of it is a lukewarm and repetitive story about a love triangle.
In “My Animal,” introverted Heather (played by Bobbi Salvör Menuez) is a semi-closeted lesbian She is about 18 or 19 years old and has dreams of becoming a professional hockey player. Her room is covered with posters and pictures of female bodybuilders. In case is isn’t clear that Heather has a thing for female athletes, there’s a scene early in the movie that shows Heather masturbating while watching female wrestlers on TV.
Heather lives with her divorced mother Patti (played by Heidi von Palleske) and Heather’s identical twin brothers Cooper (played by Charles F. Halpenny) and Hardy (played by Harrison W. Halpenny), who are about 14 or 15 years old. The children’s estranged father Henry (played Stephen McHattie) is not involved in raising them. It’s implied that he’s a deadbeat dad.
“My Animal” shows viewers from the very beginning of the movie that Heather as a big secret: She’s a werewolf, which she inherited from her father. In the movie’s opening scene, a full moon is out an night. Heather hunches down on all fours as her nose starts bleeding, and then she runs out of the house. Patti goes out and looks for Heather in the snowy woods, but then Patti is attacked by a wild animal.
It’s not hard to know that this wild animal is Heather as a werewolf, because Patti is next seen in bed recovering from her injuries and has a scar on the right side of her body. Heather tucks Patti into bed and doesn’t talk about what happened in the attack. Other than being a werewolf, Heather leads a boring and empty life where she has no friends and she’s not school or working
Someone soon catches the interest of Heather: an extroverted woman who’s around the same age named Jonine, nicknamed Johnnie (played by Amandla Stenberg), who is an aspiring professional ice skater. Heather first sees Johnnie stealing beer at a corner convenience store. They make eye contact but don’t say anything to each other, and Heather doesn’t try to stop Johnnie from shoplifting.
After this theft, Johnnie gets in a car with her 28-year-old boyfriend Rick (played by Cory Lipman), who is a local baseball star. He’s also a hoodlum with a bad temper who’s been banned from the corner convenience store because he once tried to rob it. There’s another scene in the movie where Rick gets thrown out of a casino for being threatening and belligerent.
It’s already revealed in the trailer for “My Animal” that Heather and Johnnie become lovers. However, it’s a secretive affair because Johnnie doesn’t want to break up with Rick and doesn’t want him to find out that she’s been cheating on him. This tedious love triangle drags on in the movie until you know exactly what’s going to happen because Rick is a jerk and Heather is a werewolf.
Not much is revealed about Heather’s and Johnnie’s personal backstories. Johnnie mentions to Heather that Johnnie’s mother died by suicide. Heather’s mother Patti is addicted to alcohol and often climbs into Heather’s bed and urinates on herself. Johnnie’s father knows that Heather and Johnnie are sexually involved with each other, and he doesn’t approve. The acting in “My Animal” is nothing special.
As for the werewolf part of the story, the movie doesn’t do a very good job of making it interesting. Everything is utterly predictable and told with a lackluster tone. There’s a lot of cinematography that bathes the scenes in red light, but that’s not enough to make a horror movie terrifying. The ending of “My Animal” is so bland and anti-climactic, it makes this unimpressive movie even more forgettable than it should have been.